The Washington Wizards will have the power of choice in the 2024 NBA Draft


CHICAGO — Stone-faced and almost motionless in his seat, Washington Wizards general manager Will Dawkins watched ping-pong balls swirl inside a lottery machine and listened as an NBA executive drew them out, one at a time. The first ball came out after 20 seconds, the next three with 10-second intervals in between. The executive called out the corresponding numbers.

Seven.

Six.

One.

Five.

“Washington!” another league executive announced in a clear, stern voice.

Dawkins remained motionless. No emotion flashed across his face. Then, NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said, “The second pick in the 2024 NBA Draft will be made by Washington.”

In that moment, Dawkins’ deadpan expression belied a larger truth: The Wizards had lucked out in this year’s draft lottery almost as much as they could have hoped. Although the Atlanta Hawks won the lottery, at least the Washington front office will control its own destiny after that.

“I think anytime you can get high in a draft, no matter what the draft is, you’re excited,” Dawkins said after he emerged from the secluded drawing room and the lottery’s results had been announced to the public. “You’d love to have (No.) 1 in every single draft. But being at two is a really good spot, and I think we’ll have a lot of options there and be able to do what we need to do.”

Many mock drafts released immediately after the lottery predicted the Hawks will choose 7-foot-1 big man Alex Sarr up top. Dawkins would not tip his hand on whom he and his fellow Wizards executives would prefer right now, but he added that up to 10 prospects attending the upcoming NBA Draft Combine could receive consideration.

“I would say that there’s a lot of optionality at the top of the draft, and there’s probably not the same level of instant gratification that you can see in year one with some of these rookies,” Dawkins said. “But if you really dive down and have some patience and have a forward-thinking outlook, these players are going to be pretty good players in the NBA a few years from now.”

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Full 2024 NBA Draft order

In addition to Sarr (if he’s still available), possibilities for Washington at No. 2 could include G League Ignite wing/forward Matas Buzelis, Connecticut wing Stephon Castle, Connecticut center Donovan Clingan, Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham, Tennessee wing Dalton Knecht, French wing Zaccharie Risacher, Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard and Serbian point guard Nikola Topić.

Last year’s draft offered clues on how the Wizards could approach this year. Washington traded up one spot to select 6-foot-8 wing Bilal Coulibaly at seventh overall. Choosing Coulibaly revealed that Dawkins and his fellow executives prioritize positional length, high basketball IQs and strong work ethics. This June, Buzelis, Clingan, Risacher, Sarr and Topić would fit the bill in terms of size.

“Risacher, he’s got a lot of talent, a lot of talent,” Coulibaly said Sunday afternoon. “I played against him, like, two times last year. A great shot-maker. He can create his own shot. Yeah, a really good player.”

Washington, which went 15-67 during the 2023-24 regular-season, remains in the early stages of its rebuild, but that gives the franchise some distinct developmental advantages over some of its rival lottery teams. The Wizards no doubt will hope to compete for the best lottery odds in 2025 and again in 2026. Accordingly, they can afford to devote plenty of playing time next season to whomever they draft with the second and 26th picks. The Wizards also can be extra patient with their young players.

It takes an entire organization to develop a young player, but the greatest responsibility, aside from the player himself, typically rests with the head coach. The Wizards have not made that hire yet, although officials from several rival teams expect the Wizards to choose Brian Keefe, who served last season as the Wizards’ lead assistant coach and, later, as the interim coach.

Asked about the coaching search, Dawkins answered, “I will tell you that it has started and that we’re working our way through.”

The Wizards almost certainly will make their coaching hire before the draft, which will take place over two nights on June 26-27.

In 2022, Dawkins participated in selecting a player second overall, when the Oklahoma City Thunder chose big man Chet Holmgren. Dawkins was the Thunder’s vice president of basketball operations at the time. That decision worked out pretty well. After Holmgren missed the entire 2022-23 season because of an injury, he finished as the Rookie of the Year runner-up to the San Antonio Spurs’ Victor Wembanyama.

There is no one in this draft who is expected to make as much of a long-term impact as some of the most talented players projected to be available in the next two classes. But in the grand scheme of things, Washington still has to make the most of its opportunity this year.

And having the second-overall pick is a good jumping-off place.

A lot of work remains for Dawkins, Monumental Basketball president Michael Winger and their staffs. They must conduct draft combine interviews in the upcoming days and host prospects in D.C. for extended get-to-know-you sessions. Dawkins feels the team’s evaluators have a good head start.

“Our scouts work really, really hard,” Dawkins said. “They crisscross the globe. They’ve seen every player that’s in this draft multiple times. So we feel confident. We don’t see international players as more of a challenge. We see (them) as more of an advantage because we try to make sure we see everybody.”

(Photo of Will Dawkins: Kenny Giarla / NBAE via Getty Images)





Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top